Girl Scouts at Dandelion Camp
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“Wasn’t it a dragon-fly, Verny?”
“Not at all. I should think every one of you girls could tell a dragon-fly, because we have them about our gardens at home.”
“What was it, then?” asked Joan.
“I’m going to send to Scout Headquarters for a book on Insect Life, and have you study the different ones you find while in camp. Then you’ll become acquainted with them and never forget again. The same with flowers and trees – I must send for books that you can refer to and teach yourselves all you need to know about these things that every good scout knows.”
“Oh, come on and let’s eat. Every ant and bug in the land will get there before us, and we’ll have to eat leavings,” said Julie, whipping a hornet from the jelly dish.
So with all kinds of insects for guests, the girls ate their first lunch at camp. They were so hungry that stale bread would have tasted good, but given the delicious things prepared by the Vernons’ cook, it was small wonder they all felt uncomfortably full when they left the rock-table.
CHAPTER FIVE – RUTH MEETS WITH DIFFICULTIES
Immediately after luncheon, the girls left the flat table-rock and ran off in quest of fun. They had ignored the remains of the meal, and the dishes were left to attract all the ants and flies within a radius of the odor of the food.
Mrs. Vernon had gone to the buckboard to unpack the chest that held the tools, and was engaged in sorting the nails she thought would be needed to repair the old hut. When she turned to see if the girls were almost through with the task of clearing away the dishes, she found them eagerly investigating the camp grounds.
“How I’d like to have a swim in this pool,” called Joan, standing beside the mirror-like water.
“Oh, no; we can take a dip any time. Let’s go for a hike up the mountainside. I want to explore,” cried Ruth.
“Why not wait until to-morrow morning for adventuring – I want to see if there are any fish in this trout brook,” said Betty.
Julie was out of hearing, but she was busy over some quest of her own, and she had shirked work as well as the others.
“Girls, is it possible that you are seeking for a kind fairy who might live in the woods, or are you just waiting for some one to happen along and offer services to you?” asked Mrs. Vernon.
“What do you mean?” inquired Joan, puzzled at the words.
“And what are you looking for, Verny?” asked Betty, seeing the Captain going about examining various spots, then glance up at the trees overhead, or shade her eyes to gaze at the sky.
“Finding a suitable place for the cook-stove,” said she.
“Cook-stove! Why, we didn’t bring any!” replied four girls.
“Oh, yes we did – I’ll show you a fine one to-morrow.”
“Are we to have running water in our bedrooms, too?” laughed Joan.
“You can, if you are willing to do the plumbing,” retorted Mrs. Vernon.
But evidently she found just the place she sought for; and now the girls were deeply interested in watching her build a camp-stove.“You see, I need a place where the smoke will not be driven into our tents, and also where the wind will act as a blower up the chimney and not a quencher of the fire.
“Julie, you can bring me some smooth flat stones for an oven, and Joan can find me a peck of small stones for a lining. Then Betty can cut a good strong young sapling about an inch through, cut off the twigs and leave a clean pole about five feet long; and Ruth can cut two shorter ones with crotches made by two limbs. The crotched limbs can be about three inches long and the poles cut to four feet high. Sharpen the ends to a point so we can drive them into the ground.”
Each girl went to do the bidding of their Captain, and when they returned they found a pit had been scooped out of the sheltered nook at the base of a huge rock. This pit was lined with smooth small stones, and the flat oven-stones firmly fixed at the back. Then the two notched poles were planted one on each side of the fireplace, and the long pole placed across the top, the ends fitting securely into the notches.
“To-night we shall have hot soup for supper, girls, and there will be plenty of hot water to wash dishes in.”
“Hadn’t we better heat some water now for the dishes?” asked Julie.
“Oh – haven’t you cleared away the lunch table and washed the dishes?” asked Mrs. Vernon, seemingly surprised.
“Not yet – there wasn’t any hot water,” said Ruth.
“Then we must heat some at once, for no good scout will postpone clearing away food and dishes after he has had a bountiful meal. It shows a lack of appreciation and gratitude to the Provider when one is slack about cheerfully doing his part,” said the Captain.
So Joan was sent for a pail of water, and the other girls were told to remove all signs of food from the rock and bring the dishes to the kitchen.
“Where is the kitchen?” giggled Ruth.
“For to-day, we will have it below the pool in which we wish to bathe. Then the brook can carry away the dish-water without having it seep into the ground and find its way to mingle with the pool.”
The pail of water was hung upon the cross-pole, and fire was laid and lit in the fire-pit. The girls watched very closely as the Captain slowly placed the dry leaves, then the dried twigs, and lastly the dry wood that would burn quickly and start other wood burning in the stove.
While the water was heating, Mrs. Vernon showed the girls how to hitch and unhitch Hepsy. If either one needed to do it, she would understand just where all the pieces of harness fitted in. Hepsy was now given a drink and some oats, and turned out to graze about the plateau.
With five pairs of hands, the clearing away of the dishes did not take long. As they worked, the Captain planned the carpentry work.
“Don’t you think we ought to repair the old hut first?” asked she. “You see, we need some sort of protection for our dry groceries and other things.”
“Well, we can do that to-day, and begin on Hepsy’s shed in the morning,” suggested Julie.
“I doubt if we can complete all the work to be done on the old place in this afternoon’s few hours,” returned Mrs. Vernon.
“It doesn’t look as if it would take more than two hours at most,” argued Joan.
“We’ll begin now and then you can find out for yourselves,” the Captain said in reply.
All the tools they had brought were now unpacked and placed ready for use. Mrs. Vernon then said: “Now we must weed up all the stubble and wild-growth that has filled the interior of the hut. We may find the floor beams good enough to use again when the undergrowth is cleared away.”
“Why not let’s build the roof first?” asked Ruth.
“Because you have no flooring down, and every nail or tool you drop while working on the roof will have to be sought for in the rank growth.”
The girls saw the logic of that, so they began pulling and working on the material that had to be eliminated before further work could be attended to.
“Why, this is as bad as weeding dandelions,” grumbled Ruth.
“Say, Ruth, dandelions were easy in comparison,” laughed Joan, standing up to wipe the perspiration from her face.
“Well, all I can say is, if this is the sort of fun the Girl Scouts rave about, I don’t want any more of it!” declared Ruth, throwing down her weeding fork and stepping over the beam to get out of the hut.
The other girls stopped work and looked impatiently at her, but Mrs. Vernon said: “Perhaps you’d like to work at some other task. There are many things to be done before we can settle down in camp and enjoy our leisure.”
“All right! Give me any old thing but that weeding!”
“Here’s the ax – see those trees growing so closely together over there?”
Ruth took the ax and signified by a nod that she saw the clump referred to.
“Start to cut down several of them, but do not chop too low or too high from the base. I mean, you ought to cut about eighteen inches above ground. When you have chopped through nearly half of the trunk, call me and I will show you what next to do.”
“Hurrah! Now I’m going to do something different! I’m sorry for you poor girls with nothing but weeds to work on,” called Ruth gaily, swinging the ax as she moved away.
The three girls watched for a few moments, but she had not yet reached the clump of trees before they were again working hard. The Captain was occupied in removing some boards from the packing cases already emptied of bedding and other things, so no one noticed Ruth.
She held the ax up over her head as she had seen others do, and brought it down with a swing. But it caught in the high bushes beside her and was yanked from her hands.
“Well! to think a little thing like that birch bush could do that!” exclaimed Ruth to herself.
She picked up the ax and took a fresh start. This time she changed her position so the birch could not interfere again. The ax came down, but so wide was its swing, and Ruth had not allowed for any leeway in her stiff pose, hence the muscles in her arms were wrenched and her back suddenly turned with the force of the blow.
“O-oh” exclaimed she, dropping the ax and rubbing the flesh of her upper arms.
She glanced over at her companions to see if they had seen the awkward work she was making of the chopping, but they were laughing merrily as they worked inside the hut. Mrs. Vernon was not to be seen so the girl’s pride was spared. She picked up the ax again and looked at it carefully.
“What is there about you that hurt me like that?”
But the inanimate ax did not answer, and Ruth could not tell. So she lifted it again, slowly this time, and then made sure that no obstructions were in the way.
She paid so much attention to the ax that she scarcely looked where the blow might fall, consequently the blade came down almost on a vertical line with the tree-trunk. It glanced off and sank into the soft soil beside the tree, with Ruth holding fast to the handle. So unexpected was this aim and the downward continuation of the ax until it sank into the ground, that Ruth was fairly pulled over and fell upon her face in the vines and bushes.
“You mean old thing! You can stick there as long as you like – I’ll never put a finger on you again!” cried the ax-scout, as she got up and felt of the scratches on her face.
“What’s the matter, Ruth?” called Mrs. Vernon, seeing the girl slowly returning to camp without the ax.
“That tool is too heavy for me to use. Have you a hatchet or something else to cut with?”
“The ax is the only thing that ought to be used on a small tree; the saw is for thicker trunks, but you can’t manage it, either, if you can’t handle the ax.”
“Well, what else is there I can do instead of chopping down forests?” asked Ruth, trying to cover her shortcomings with a laugh.
“Did you bring back the ax? It’s a very good one, you know.”
“I thought perhaps one of the other girls would want to change work soon, so I left it by the tree.”
“If one of the others should feel like quitting the work they were given to complete first, then they can take the ax from its place in the tool-chest. Better bring it to me now, Ruth.”
As no other alternative was open, she went back to the tree and kicked viciously at the ax. But the blade was still securely embedded in the ground and that made the handle as resistant as an upright post. So all Ruth got for her kick was a suddenly turned toe that felt lame for days afterwards.
“Oh, o-oh! how I hate camping! I’m going home and tell every one I know what a horrid thing this Girl Scout business is! All hard work and – everything! No fun, no rest – just lame backs and broken bones!” Ruth fairly screamed to herself as she sat down and removed the sneaker from the foot that had tried to crack the ax-handle of hickory.
The Captain heard the crying and hurried over to inquire into the cause of it. Ruth was weeping by this time, so sorry did she feel for herself, and her ill-treatment.
“What ever has happened, Ruth, in this perfectly safe spot?”
“O-ooh! I must have stubbed my toe! Oooo-h, I’m afraid it’s broken!” wailed the girl.
Mrs. Vernon saw the ax with its head deep in the ground but she did not dream how Ruth had “stubbed” her toe. She sat down and wiggled the injured member tenderly, then said:
“Oh, no, it’s not broken, only hurt by the collision. It will be all right in a little while,” the Captain replied cheerfully.
But Ruth did not want cheerfulness – she wanted to be told she had to remain as quiet as possible and have others wait on her.
“Pick up the ax and I’ll help you walk over – you can lean upon my arm if you think your toe will feel easier,” suggested Mrs. Vernon.
“I don’t believe I can walk,” breathed Ruth, fearfully.
“Oh, yes, you can. The foot is all right, it is only the toe that feels lame for a short time – just as it would have done at home if you ran into a piece of furniture.”
Reaching camp again, Ruth was about to drop the ax on the grass, when the Captain said: “The tool-chest is over on the buckboard, Ruth.”
The girl clinched her teeth in anger, but the ax was taken to its right place and left in the box whence she had taken it.
One after another of the girls looked up and felt surprised to find Ruth sitting on a box holding her foot. Then Julie called out:
“Good gracious! Ruth done chopping that tree so soon?”
“No, she and the ax had an argument,” laughed Mrs. Vernon.
Ruth glanced at the Captain out of the corners of her eyes, and wondered: “Did she see me kick that old thing?”
“Oh! Well, then, come over and get busy here again,” said Joan, beckoning to Ruth.
“That won’t make your toe hurt, Ruth. You can remain in one spot and weed,” added Mrs. Vernon.
Not having any other excuse at the moment, Ruth limped to the hut and slowly began the old work, but she rebelled inwardly.
After an hour’s hard work the clearing was done, and the girls threw themselves down to rest. The Captain was ready for this recess.
“I made a jugful of lemonade, girls, and it is as cold as if we had ice water in it. Just taste!”
“Oh, glory! Just what I was wishing for,” sighed Julie.
The others quickly agreed with that exclamation, and tested the drink. The mingled sounds of approval made the Captain smile. After a short rest, Joan said:
“What next? I’m ready to start work again.”
“Dear me! Haven’t we done enough for this afternoon? I want to enjoy a little bit of the time here,” complained Ruth.
“I’m having a fine time! I like this sort of thing,” said Joan.
“You can do exactly as you like, girls; if you want to do any more work on the hut, well and good; if you prefer to rest or do anything else, there is no one to stop you. But it is plain to be seen that the hut cannot be repaired completely this afternoon, eh?” said Mrs. Vernon, with a smile.
“I should say not! If we finish it by to-morrow night we will be clever workers,” replied Julie.
“I’m going back to work on it, anyway,” came from Betty.
“You always were the easy mark for every one,” Ruth said scornfully, tossing her head.
Betty flushed, but Julie defended her. “She isn’t an easy mark at all! But she may be too sympathetic for hard-hearted or lazy folks who always play on her generosity!”
“I don’t believe the scout handbook says that members of the scout organization must criticize or say unpleasant things to others,” commented Mrs. Vernon.
That silenced every one, and soon all four girls were at work again, removing the dead wood of the flooring. When this was done, Mrs. Vernon examined it carefully.
“It isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. The tangle of briars and brush, and the decayed outer layer of the beams, made it look as if it all must be removed.”
Once they became interested in repairing the floor as it should be done, the girls wanted to continue and complete it, but the wise Captain called a halt, and said:
“Twilight will soon creep up to compel us to stop work; before that comes we want to have everything ready for the night.”
So when darkness fell the camp was ready and waiting for it. A fine fire reflected light fitfully about its radius, and lanterns were lighted for use in case the campers wished to go about. Hepsy had been fed and bedded for the night, and the tent was in readiness for its tenants.
Supper had been prepared and disposed of, and the dishes washed and cleared away before darkness invited every one to sit down and listen to the Captain’s stories of girlhood days in this very spot. But she had rather a drowsy audience that night. Four girls were so tired out with healthy exercise and the mountain air that the fire gave them a feeling of peace and rest.
Not a demur was heard when Mrs. Vernon suggested bed, and the hard cots must have felt like a nest of feathers to the newly-fledged scouts, for soon every one was fast asleep.
CHAPTER SIX – FIRST LESSONS IN SCOUT WORK
A loud drumming on a tin pan roused the would-be scouts in the morning, and each girl tumbled out of her cot feeling as if she had slept on roses. The invigorating air and the benefit of sleeping out-of-doors began to be felt. Then the odor of cooking was wafted in through the tent opening, and Joan ran to look out.
“Oh!” sniffed she, “Verny’s up and dressed and has something awfully good cooking for breakfast!”
“Um-m – I should say she has!” added Julie, running over to join Joan at the tent door.
“What is it, Verny?” called a chorus of girls, and as the Captain turned to reply she saw four tousled heads crowded out of the opening.
“Can’t tell secrets until you’ve washed and dressed!” laughed Mrs. Vernon.
It was not long, therefore, before the hungry campers joined her about the fire and wanted to know what smelled so good. The Captain was adding a pinch of salt to the “something” in the pot, so she did not look up, but said hastily:
“Will some one watch that toast – it seems to be scorching.”
“Did you ever! Making toast on a stone!” laughed Julie, trying to turn over the slices with a stick.
“But the stone’s as hot as any stove-lid,” commented Betty, as she saw the smoke rise from the crumbs that burned on the rock.
“Is that cereal standing off on that other stone?” now inquired Ruth.
“Yes, but who’d a thought a stone would ever be used for an oven?” laughed Joan, stirring the cereal with a long spoon.
“The oven won’t retain heat long after the stone is removed from the embers. Better be ready to serve yourselves as soon as I say ‘ready,’” said Mrs. Vernon, as she removed the pot that had given forth such appetizing odors from the fire, and stood it upon a heated rock.
“Now – all ready!” laughed she, and every girl made a dash for the cereal.
“Here – let me dish it up and pass it along. The whole mess will be in the fire if we all struggle to be first,” added Joan.
The cereal disappeared like snow in July, and then four eager girls were asking for the next course.
“This food, fit for the gods, is composed of the leavings of supper last night. But you girls will never dream that it goes by a homely name,” said Mrs. Vernon, as she ladled a goodly portion upon each plate which was thrust out under her nose.
“What is it called?” asked Ruth, tasting a bit that fell upon the edge of her plate.
“It smells heavenly, Verny!” sighed Julie, rolling her eyes skyward.
Every one laughed, for Julie always was extravagant in her language.
“In boarding-houses the guests object every time it is served, but we have the great advantage over city boarders whose hash is made merely with chopped meat and eggs and milk! We have Nature’s appetizer to season our dish, so that it becomes nectar and ambrosia in this camp,” explained the Captain, smilingly.
The hash went the way of the cereal, and the girls looked anxiously in the pot to see if there could be a second helping.
“Oh, thanks to our lucky stars and Verny, she made a lot of it!” called Julie, waving a spoon at her comrades.
“But where is the toast? Verny – the toast is gone!” shouted Joan, gazing fearfully under the stones to see if it could have slipped from the oven-rock.
“Ha! that’s my secret! Eat the hash, girls, and I will tell you where the toast is.”
It needed no second invitation to finish all signs of hash, then Ruth demanded to know where the toast was hidden.
The Captain ran over to Ruth and touched the spot where the stomach is located. “You’ve had your share of toast and it is in there!” laughed Mrs. Vernon.
“We haven’t! We only had hash!” retorted Ruth, wonderingly.
“The hash was made of toast and other things. I only had about a spoonful of corned beef left from last night. But toast, when broken into bits, will taste so like meat that few people know the difference. That’s how I managed to cook a second helping.”
“As long as it was not wasted I don’t care much whether I ate the toast in hash or had it with tea,” said Julie.
“But I can eat more breakfast,” commented Joan.
“‘Enough is as good as a feast,’ and I’m sure you girls must admit you’ve had enough to sustain you until noon,” said Mrs. Vernon.
“Oh, certainly!” agreed Joan, “making the best of a famine is my especial virtue.”
This started a laugh, and merry words were exchanged while the dishes were cleared away and the camp was left in good order.
“Now shall we start in to finish the hut, Verny?” asked Betty.
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